As scientists, we are constantly troubleshooting, learning how to use new tools, and trying to make things work to generate results and ultimately publications. Often the only approach to overcoming technical problems is making a phone call or emailing a company representative, which can be frustrating with no real resolution. Even a walk down the hallway to a neighboring lab might not help, especially when you are using a fairly new technology with a limited number of users.
To foster engagement within the scientific community and educate its current customers, Inscopix has been hosting regular workshops with our in-house scientists and engineers. These workshops provide detailed training on Inscopix’s hardware and software for in vivo Ca2+ imaging (nVista) as well as data analysis (Mosaic), including live laboratory demonstrations. These workshops strive to promote an easy flow of information from experts to users, as well as attendee cross-communication for idea exchange and possible future collaborations.
Here’s a recap of the events from the recent two-day ACCELERATE Neocortex Training Workshop!
Day 1. Lectures on surgical and data analysis workflow at Inscopix Headquarters
With a healthy dose of caffeine and armed with pens and binders, 12 attendees ranging from principal investigators to postdocs and graduate students gathered for the first day of the interactive training workshop. Although each attendee had different scientific interests and questions, the common goal was to study neural dynamics in live animals, which drove their interest in using nVista across numerous neuroscience subfields. The attendees got a virtual tour on the history and technology at Inscopix, presented by our Application Scientist.
The principal application of the nVista system is imaging genetically encoded Ca2+ indicators in large neuronal populations. The Director of Application Science provided a detailed review of calcium indicators as well as different neuronal labeling strategies currently in use. This information was useful for attendees looking for ways to determine the best indicator based on the type of question they have and the available resources. This was followed by a presentation on the nVista experimental workflow by our Application Scientist where she discussed some of the important steps that are essential before starting an experiment with the nVista system. Our Customer Support Manager then shared useful tips and guidelines on overcoming problems sometimes encountered by users.
Attendees learning about the nVista experimental workflow at the recent ACCELERATE workshop
The lecture series then transitioned to the use of the nVista software for performing imaging experiments presented by our Applications Engineer. The attendees were trained on data management, software navigation, and the use of various functions in the software. Suggestions on how to achieve the best imaging results were provided as well.
Apart from the imaging software, the presenter also discussed data analysis using the Mosaic software, which is designed to process calcium imaging data. The presentation laid out the data analysis workflow and explained how to modify it to suit one's data and analyses. Day 1 concluded with a lecture on the PCA/ICA algorithm by our Postdoctoral Computational Scientist. The applications of this algorithm for optical imaging data and methods to isolate cellular activity were explained in detail.
Day 2. Lab procedures: Surgery and Imaging Demonstrations
This day was dedicated exclusively for understanding lab procedures like cranial window surgeries and probe implantations. The entire group headed to the Inscopix lab at NASA’s Ames Research Center. Our Application Scientist commenced the session by demonstrating a cranial window procedure, a preparation widely used for calcium imaging that allows observation of the same cortical area chronically. This was followed by a demonstration of prism probe implantation by our Scientific Research Support Specialist, which enables in vivo multi-layer cortical brain imaging. Our Postdoctoral Fellow then demonstrated an nVista baseplate installation, which allows for docking of the miniature microscope. These live demos initiated a lot of practical questions and exchange of ideas and suggestions from one attendee to another.
Live demonstration of surgical procedures at Inscopix lab
The attendees bonded over their questions as well as food and drinks, and shared similar sentiments about their experience. One attendee said that “the alacrity and diversity of the researchers involved along with their skill-sets and expertise” made it a worthwhile experience for him. Similar sentiments were echoed by other attendees. One wrote: “The step-by-step demonstration of the surgical process was extremely helpful, especially learning about the mistakes to avoid and tricks used to bypass them”. Another said, “Learning about the technical details, use of proper tools, and how to maximize chances of success in these surgeries was very useful”.
Attendees engaging in discussions and sharing ideas with one another
We all enjoyed hosting our valued members of the Inscopix Community, and look forward to helping them achieve scientific success together!
4th Class of ACCELERATE Workshop Attendees
Swagata Basu, Ph.D. is a Postdoctoral Science Communications Fellow at Inscopix Inc.